January 31, 2019 - 4:00pm
VIU students travelled to the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders’ in Bangkok to strengthen peace efforts with 500 Peace Ambassadors.
Before we can achieve world peace, we must understand what this concept means when put into practice. This is what Vancouver Island University (VIU) students, Stephanie Pastro and Justin North sought to find out during the Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders’ in Bangkok this past November.
The 2018 Summit engaged 500 Peace Ambassadors from more than 40 countries – ages 17 to 35 – to strengthen peace efforts.
“We had the privilege of listening to people’s real-life stories of resiliency and tribulation,” says North, a fifth-year VIU Global Studies student. “Unlike a model UN conference where we have simulations to develop policies, this event applied our learning with real-life situations.”
Ponheary Ly, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, shared her story of devoting herself to educating children after the abolishment of education and death of intellectuals in Cambodia. An advocate for learning, she founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation – initially supporting one student with her personal income, the foundation now sponsors 2,800 students throughout northwestern Cambodia.
“She spoke about how her organization started with one child,” says North. “No matter how small you start, you have the ability to actualize your dream and make a big impact.”
A speech given at the conference by Hyppolite Ntigurirwa, a survivor of the Rwanda Genocide resonated with Pastro. “He and his family had terrible atrocities committed against them, but all he spoke about was forgiveness,” says Pastro, a fourth-year VIU Bachelor of Arts student, double majoring in Political Studies and Sociology. “He told us that you cannot expect others to give peace to you, but you can give peace to others.”
Delegates of the summit have committed to taking on the role as Humanitarian Affairs Peace Ambassadors, who will lead initiatives of their own, and encourage other youths to play an active role in creating inclusive communities.
“VIU is active in the communities we serve,” says Laura Suski, VIU Global Studies Chair. “It is important to give students opportunities to take their knowledge to global communities, and then share their new perspectives to renew and invigorate our VIU learning community.”
“It was a humbling experience to listen to so many inspiring stories of compassion, inner strength, determination, and forgiveness” says Pastro. “This experience has opened my eyes to the fact that although we live in a world that sometimes seems so dark that we often feel powerless, we can each make a positive difference. We all have the choice to achieve peace if everything we do, we do in love.”
North and Pastro are helping organize the VIU Model United Nations events on Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16 for Global Citizens Week. The simulation will focus on sustainability in action by exploring how to actualize peace.
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University